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United Kingdom (UK) - Getting There By Sea

Travelling to the United Kingdom by sea is not difficult. One-way cruises can be booked from America, Africa, Europe, or other locations around the world; however, it is most often easier to ship household goods and fly in. For those moving from Ireland to the UK or from Europe to the UK, the best way to travel by sea is by way of the ferry system. A main sea route from Europe is through France to England, then using rail, plane, or road to arrive at the final destination.

The major ports in the United Kingdom are situated in Humber, East Anglia, Thames Estuary, Kent Coast, South Coast, Bristol Channel, and Northwest England.

Major Ferry Routes

Several routes are possible depending on the starting location, such as Newcastle to Amsterdam, Dover to Calais, Newhaven to Dieppe, Portsmouth to Le Havre, Harwich to Esbjerg, and Baltic Sea routes to Portsmouth. Routes go both ways, but a main route from Europe is Le Havre or Caen, France to and from Portsmouth. Many of the ferry companies run the same pathways on different timetables. For example, Portsmouth to Le Havre with LD Lines runs Monday through to Sunday at 23:00, arriving at 08:00. Le Havre to Portsmouth runs Monday through to Sunday at 17:00, with an arrival of 21:30. DFDS Seaways runs a ferry at the same time as LD Lines.

Stena Line provides routes to Britain from Belfast, Dublin, Dun Laoghaire, and Rosslare. There is also a ferry from Liverpool to Belfast, so it is possible to take a ferry from Le Havre, drive to Liverpool and catch another ferry up to Belfast if moving from Europe to Northern Ireland. Stena Lines also provides a route to Scotland on a daily basis. The routes between Belfast, Ireland and Scotland take approximately two hours. It is possible to drive or take a train from Southern Ireland to Belfast in order to catch the ferry to Scotland.

P&O Ferries runs lines between many European destinations including Holland, Germany and France. A southern Ireland to Liverpool ferry runs daily at 21:30, arriving at 05:30am. Other departure times are offered on a non-daily basis, such as ferries from Tuesday through to Saturday leaving at 09:00 and arriving at 17:00. The timetables vary due to weather, additional stops, and final destination.

Journey Times in Detail

Many of the routes may seem like a direct option, however the timing of the crossing is actually a lot longer than one might expect. Several of the ferries provide an 8-8.5 hour trip. The same is true of travel from Ireland, when the ferry can take over eight hours. Going from Portsmouth to Le Havre or vice versa can take 3 hours and 45 minutes on a direct ferry. There are also express ferries with speed vessels that make the journey shorter.

France to England is the most direct ferry route from Europe; however, there are other options such as Germany, Holland, the Netherlands, and Denmark. Travel times from these other countries can be up to a full day, depending on the number of port stops made on the way to England. There are few ferries to Scotland from European ports. Most often the ferry’s final destination will be England, requiring a switch to road or rail travel. There are six ferries operating on Scottish routes. These routes are Belfast to Cairnryan and Larne to Troon or Cairnryan. Travelling by ferry from Northern Ireland to Scotland takes approximately two hours.

Major Ferry Companies

P&O Ferries

This company operates in Northern Ireland, England and Wales.

+44(0) 871 664 2121

Stena Line

Stena mainly runs ferries from English ports to Europe and Ireland.
+44(0) 844 770 7070

LD Lines

LD Lines runs from England to Europe.
+44(0) 844 576 8837

DFDS Seaways

A major ferry company, with ferries running from English ports to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Europe.

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